It's not really fair of me to write about caring for your sheep, as we are novices ourselves. However, I thought I could write about our experiences and it might be useful to other novices, as well as being something to look back on for us.
a good start
So I guess, the best thing is to buy healthy sheep in the first place. Not that easy if you don't know anything to start with! I started with alot of research - through the internet and books. It's well worth getting a book, one that shows you what to look for with their teeth, and reminds you of the obvious you might overlook - such as checking you are actually buying ewes not wethers and that the ewes you are buying are intact and have not had an accident during shearing that will make feeding their lambs difficult, and so on.
We decided to buy our sheep privately - and went to view the flock first, before arranging to make a purchase. It wasn't just the flock we were visiting but also the farmer - and we were happy with our relationship with him. All of the sheep he picked out for selling on the second visit looked in good health - none were limping - and we picked out three we liked the look of. Basically, we trusted him, and I think it has paid off. All of this would have been difficult to do at market.
checking your sheep
Ideally twice a day in my opinion. What exactly are you checking for? Good question. First off you want to make sure you still have the same number you started with last time you looked - and if not why not !
Sheep make a hobby out of suicide, it seems - as a neighbour recently said to me, no other creature on earth spends it entire day trying to think of a new and inventive way to die... I don't mean to be flippant, but it is something worth having in mind. ok, so if you don't have the right number of sheep, look for the bodies or the gap in the fence.
Next you look for physical problems. One of our ewes has got her head well and truly stuck in the fence mesh twice now - so that was pretty obvious! Otherwise you are looking for limping, (foot problems) messy bums known as scouring ( many different causes, including worms), injury, or evidence of fly strike such as a dark wet area of wool, or the sheep twisting and rubbing.
Apart from counting, and looking for the clear physical problems, which are pretty basic, you are trying to develop an understanding of your sheep. It took me less than a week to tell ours apart - ok we only have three so not that tricky - but still, I noticed that they have different facial features, slightly different build (one has stockier legs than the others) and they definitely have different temperaments - one is more pushy, one is average, one holds back.. etc.
Why, you are wondering, should you take so much interest in the characters of your sheep? This way, it is easier to spot when something is wrong. If the cheeky one hangs back and is unusually quiet, if they seem off colour or just you get a hunch that something is wrong, then its time to take note - or even go looking for the problem. Also, its good for the sheep to have a good relationship with you - to be comfortable with you around. Already I notice that they are more willing to be close by, even let me touch them, but are not so with people they don't know.
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